Holding on

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Holding On

The human mind holds thoughts and ideas that sometimes interfere with its acceptance of truth. Sir Francis Bacon calls these hindering ideas “idols” in his work: Idols Which Beset Men’s Minds because people tend to hold onto these flawed ideas even when faced with other possibilities. Charles S. Peirce tells us in The Fixation of Belief that people do not just hold onto a belief, they hold onto it with an unyielding stubbornness. This stubbornness hinders the mind from accepting or pursuing new truth. These human tendencies to persist in a belief, defined by Bacon and Peirce, are illustrated in Bertolt Brecht’s play, Galileo. Bacon explains this persistence in a belief: “The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion…draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be a greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects and despises, or else by some distinction sets aside and rejects…” (XLVI). Once an idea is embraced, the human mind will find additional support for this belief. Anything that contradicts this held opinion is disregarded and ignored despite any amount of data to the contrary. Bacon continues, “The idols and false notions which are now in possession of the human understanding, and have taken deep root therein…so beset men’s minds that truth can hardly find entrance…” (XXXVIII). These deeply held erroneous beliefs often stand in the way of accepting evidence of a differing truth. Peirce agrees with Bacon that once a belief is held people do not want to change their minds. He further states that “…the instinctive dislike of an undecided state of mind, exaggerated into a vague dread of doubt, makes men cling spasmodically to the views they already hold” (10). Belief gives a feeling of satisfaction and peace, whereas doubt brings uncertainty and unease. People do not like the feeling of being in doubt, so they adhere passionately to what...
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